In response to the nationwide shortage of flu vaccines, University Health Services will not be offering flu clinics this year.
UHS is strictly following the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of who is eligible for immunization.
“The CDC is very important to our work,” Associate Director of Health Promotion Linda Dudman said. “We really need to follow the guidelines.”
Dudman says that anyone who does not fall within the CDC guidelines will not be given a vaccine at UHS.
The CDC states, “Healthy people two to 64 years of age are asked to postpone or skip getting a flu shot this year so that available vaccine can go to protect those at greater risk for flu complications.”
Those who will be able to receive a flu vaccine include people who have direct patient contact such as medical professionals and students, those who have a chronic health condition such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS, those who are at heightened risk due to being in certain age groups and women who are pregnant.
Applications of FluMist, a nasal flu vaccine, are still available at UHS.
FluMist is not recommended for use by medical care professionals who work with patients who have extremely lowered immune systems, and also cannot be given to pregnant women.
UHS was planning to promote the clinics on campus this fall until the CDC announced the news of a shortage, so they had to stop.
Dudman estimates that UHS has about 1,000 available vaccines for high-risk patients. “We are concerned about the potential of more flu on campus,” Dudman said.
However, there is no worry of a mass epidemic within UR because many students did not get regular flu shots in the past and there will not be a large dropoff in immunized students compared with earlier flu seasons.
“We don’t want to alarm students, [about the shortage],” Dudman said.
“We don’t know what the flu season is going be like this year.”
Both UHS and the CDC advocate flu prevention techniques such as regular hand washing, drinking a lot of water throughout the season, keeping a distance from sick people, and getting plenty of rest.
According to the CDC, adults may be able to infect others one day before getting symptoms and up to seven days after getting sick.
Usually high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, sore throat, stuffy nose and muscle aches are common symptoms of the flu.
Regarding the difference between symptoms for cold and for flu, Dudman provided some clarity. “With a cold you feel less perfect over a few days … the flu hits you very hard very quickly,” Dudman said. “If you get the flu you can be very sick.”
Dudman advised that if a student believes they have flu-like symptoms, they should call and make an appointment at UHS as soon as possible to begin treatment.
“I want the students to understand our response is part of a national response,” Dudman said. “Students should take should take the basic precautions for their health, which includes continuously washing their hands.”
UR students don’t seem to be too worried about the flu. “Why are flu shots all that important?” junior Marie Hunter. “I don’t think we’d have quite as big of a problem if there was actually soap in each bathroom to sterilize your hands. Dirty hands means more people with communicable diseases,” Hunter said.
Meanwhile, freshman Christopher Emerson doesn’t seem to mind the flu vaccine shortage all that much. “I really don’t care because I never got the shots before and usually get really sick during the flu season anyway,” Emerson said.
Dudman urges students to visit the UHS website, http://www.rochester.edu/uhs/index.html for more information regarding current health issues involving UR and for helpful self-treatment tips for colds.